Swedish Lapland is a snow-covered autumn break with a difference

By Signe Wulff

Photo: Håkan Stenlund

You don't need to leave Sweden to experience an other-worldly trip. From the mesmerising mirrorcube treehotel to a floating arctic spa, here’s your guide to this fascinating part of the country

No matter which season you choose to visit Swedish Lapland, the region offers a wide range of activities and sites that will challenge your mindset about what exactly an exotic destination is. Summer solstice will give you the midnight sun, whilst the winter will overwhelm you with the magical northern lights and luminescent snowy landscape. Swedish Lapland has mountains, rivers and deep forests. Art, literature and architecture. Fishing, hiking, trekking, skiing, tree hugging (if that’s your thing) and even wolf watching. Whether it’s adrenaline-fuelled activities or complete calm, if you’re in the search for magic, this is the place to go…

What to do

Outdoor life is an essential part of the local lifestyle and the possibilities are endless. Explore for information about the specific activities. If culture is your bag, hop on the bus in Luleå center for a 10 minutes’ drive to the Unesco World Heritage site Gammelstad. Here you’ll find 400 picturesque little red tree houses scattered around an old church – a perfect place to be beamed back hundreds of years. And if you’re an art lover, spend an afternoon at Havremagasinet – the regional center of contemporary art in Boden. The building from 1913 used to be an oat warehouse providing food for military horses, but today it presents contemporary pieces in fabulous surroundings. Currently you can enjoy works from Scandinavian artists include Helena Byström and Lotta Lampa, among others.

And if you just fancy getting away from it all, Swedish Lapland is also the perfect place to enjoy the sound of silence. It’s so quiet, the locals say that every once in a while, you can hear the northern lights that supposedly sound like crackling fire.

Where to stay

If you haven’t lived out the dream of a tree house as a child, the Treehotel in Harads is your chance. These unique houses are all designed by international architects such as Bjarke Ingels and are – hence the name – all placed in the trees. There’s a mix of different tree universes to choose from, such as the UFO-inspired house or the mirrorcube, surrounded by huge mirror walls which reflect the snowy tundra outside.

If you prefer staying closer to the ground, the small town of Harads also provides that opportunity. The Arctic Bath has rooms on the banks of Luleälven, but you can also go naval and choose a room floating on the river. The spectacular design is inspired by the tree logging industry that used to be based here and offers the perfect spot to kick back and enjoy some respite in the fresh and frosty air. The main building houses a restaurant, spa, sauna and a pool in the river, kept free of ice all year around for ice dipping.

The Wood Hotel in Skellefteå is covered in wood and welcomes you for a climate positive and sustainable overnight stay. Ventilation, electricity and heating is powered by renewable energy and the building is built of wood from the local forests by local contractors. As a cherry on top, the steam bath in the spa is pure joy and will have your skin glowing in no time. If you are into a more classic accommodation, Elite Stadshotell in Luleå has a vibe of dazzling past to it. Especially in the old banquet hall where breakfast is served under beautiful stucco work and shimmering chandeliers. This is just the spot to embrace old-school glamour and lean into a trip of decadence.

Other epic places to check out before going: The Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi and the mountain villa Niehku.

Where to eat

The chefs at the Arctic Bath, the Treehotel and The Wood Hotel all specialise in the great local food culture. Enjoy the locally sourced ingredients such as reindeer, moose, arctic char, salmon, chantarelles – and of course berries like lingon, wild forest strawberries, blueberries and cloudberries.

In Luleå Chef Simon Leiti runs Hemmagastronomi, a deli and restaurant, supplied by local farmers, fishermen and with greens from his own garden. During season he and his father go hunting for grouse, moose and other game and then Leiti transforms them into mouthwatering servings in his restaurant.

Meanwhile at Bryggargatan in Skellefteå the Icelandic chef Jón Óskar Arnason masters the local cuisine. Remember to ask for his arctic herbal infused gins, Ogin. The gin – as the food – is an excellent expression of Swedish Lapland and will certainly help to warm the cockles on a cold autumnal evening.